Persistence Pays Off

It was Saturday, the last day of the hunt. The morning had given way to afternoon, and I still hadn’t seen a shootable bear. We had see lots of activity, the baits were being hit almost every night, but it had been a warm week. It was a little cooler today, but I was beginning to think I might not get a crack at a bruin this year.

After one of my innumerable scans of near three sixty degrees, I was astounded to find a bear at the bait barrel. I never heard him, nor saw him as he came in. He just ghosted in and was at the barrel. I reached over and flipped on the video camera mounted to my left and waited for a shot opportunity. It was a nice bear, that much I could tell with my first look. The bear began knocking the bait barrel around, shoving it this way and that. He was behind it, or quartering towards me, laying down with his legs protecting his vitals, but never still for very long, and never in a place that would allow me a good clean shot. When at last he turned in such a way that it looked like I might get a shot, I drew my Mathews bow and waited for him to stand and shift just a little. He stood, I put the pin where I wanted it and hoped for that one step…

Jay Ledbetter, my hunting buddy, and I were hunting with Louie’s Outpost and Timber Wolf Air in Blind River Ontario. We have always had good success with Louie and his extended family of bear and fishing outfitters, and even though neither of us had taken a shot yet, it wasn’t for lack of effort on the outfitters part. Both Jay and I turned down shots at bear the first night of our hunt. Jay turned down nice bear not wanting to end the hunt on the first day, and I, having already killed one bear a couple years before, turned a shot down on a mature but smaller bear in hopes of a bigger one.

We were flown in to Bark Lake in northern Ontario by Rick Horwath, one of Louie’s sons and partners and their primary pilot. Running both fishing and bear hunting camps, Rick had been baiting the six baits for a good part of the summer. Jay and I had hunted from this cabin before, and we were familiar with the baits. Jay had taken a nice bear two years earlier from this camp. The baits are located at various points around the lake anywhere from a mile to five miles from the camp. After some guidance and instructions from Rick, we were off to the baits.
Jay had brought a couple of trail cams along with him, and after determining which baits we would be hunting, we agreed to put the trail cams at different baits to check on the bear activity at those baits.

Our daily routine was pretty simple. Up at dawn, breakfast at the cabin and then off to check the baits and trail cameras to see about overnight bear activity. After checking all the baits, we would fish our way back to the cabin where we never failed to catch way more fish that we could possible keep or eat. We usually kept between two or three northern pike and turned the rest loose. We would clean the fish, check on the trail cam pictures from their flash cards, munch a bit of lunch as we talked about the pictures and plan our strategy for the afternoon. Depending on where we decided to hunt we would boat, sometimes together, sometimes separately to the various baits in hopes of tagging our bruin.

After our first evening, bear sightings dropped off the face of the map. It was just too warm apparently. Bear were hitting the baits in the evening, Jay had a close encounter of the bear kind just after climbing out of his stand at dark, but bears were not coming in during shooting hours.

We had a ball catching fish – Jay landed a real nice forty two and a half inch pike on Tuesday, but no bear. Both Rick and Louie flew in to check on us and offer encouragement, make suggestions and generally tease us for not connecting yet. Priding themselves on putting hunters on bears is always foremost in their minds. On Wednesday evening they suggested that they move us to another cabin, but Jay and I were comfortable with Bark lake and decided to stay. However, when Thursday came without any daylight bear activity, we agreed to move to a different lake and a different camp.

So early Friday morning we were moved to another lake with four separate baits. Rick took us to each of the four baits and Jay and I laid claim to one each. After Rick flew out, Jay and I went to set up the trail cams at the baits we wouldn’t hunt from. It was a bit cooler, and we had some trail cam pictures from Bark lake that indicated the bears were moving earlier in the day. So as soon as we could get our hunting gear together we headed out to the stands. It was only 1:00, but the bait at my stand had already been hit from when Rick showed us the stands a couple of hours ago. This was looking better! I stayed till dark, but a bear didn’t come in to the bait. The next day would be our last full day of hunting.

The next morning while we were getting ready to check the baits and cameras, I could hear one of the bait barrels getting knocked around by a bear. It was the same barrel I had hunted the night before and the one that got hit between the time Rick showed us the barrel and I got into the stand at 1:00. Jay and I concluded that he would check the rest of the baits, and I should just get to that stand and hunt all day.

My stand was located in dark timber and approaches to the bait were shrouded in deep cover. There wouldn’t be much of a warning when a bear came in. I was on the stand by 9:00 am and planned to stay till dark or I shot a bear.

…The bear turned just a bit, slightly quartering away from me. I set my pin to air at his far shoulder, and touched off the release. My Carbon Express arrow tipped with its G5 Montac 125 grain head slammed into the bear and he bolted out of the little clearing. As he ran I worried that the arrow had not completely passed through the bear, but my worries ended as I watched the bruin run no more than thirty yards and tip over. I could see where he lay.
I stopped the camera, and rewound it to replay the shot. Sure enough, the arrow didn’t penetrate completely, but was placed near perfectly. The arrow appeared to be in the center of the lungs, and looks like it got stopped by the far front leg. Waiting, to be sure he was dead, was when the adrenalin kicked in.

After the hard work, and Jay coming in to help with pictures, I was drained! This was a really nice bear. I have always wanted a Pope and Young bear. Could this be the one?
Rick flew in the next morning to help me pack out the bruin and fly him back to base camp. Jay hunted the rest of that day. While Jay hunted, I was packing our gear, cleaning the cabin and getting ready for our trip out that afternoon.

Jay left his stand when he heard the returning Beaver not seeing another bear. As we packed up the plane, Rick commented that he had measured the bear and that the bear was likely to make it into Pope and Young. Now I have to wait for the official score sometime next spring.

As always, Louie, Nancy and Rick treated us like guests not clients. They always bend over backwards to make sure our trip is enjoyable and successful. If you are looking to take a black bear, you can’t go wrong by hunting with these guys. If you would like to hunt with Louie’s Outpost you can find them at